Rumour has it there is something big going on in the racing world next week. However, before all that gets underway, the ITV crew are keeping up their steady stream of Saturday afternoon equine entertainment. There’s something to suit all tastes this weekend, as Sandown and Wolverhampton combine to serve up a mixture of flat and jumps action.
The highlight of the day comes at Sandown, with the 2023 edition of the hugely competitive Imperial Cup. With 17 of the current field also holding an entry next week, the race may throw up some late Cheltenham clues. Wolverhampton meanwhile plays host to one of its classiest fixtures of the season, headlined by the Listed Class Lady Wulfreton Stakes. There are seven races on offer which means we have seven winners to find, and here we give it our best shot in this week’s Saturday Racing Tips.
1:30 Huge Daily Boosts Only BetUk Handicap
Class 2, 6f
The sprint handicappers open the show in what looks to be a typically competitive event. The ultra-consistent Silky Wilkie heads the betting on the back of an all-the-way success at Kempton last time out. Likely to employ similar tactics here, he can go well despite his six-pound higher mark.
Sir Robin and Exalted Angel are other obvious contenders, but, at a bigger price than them all, the one we like here is the David Evans filly, Cuban Breeze. A former course and distance winner, this one put in a cracking effort at Listed level at Newmarket towards the back end of 2022, and looks most interesting dropping back into handicapping company off a mark of 89. A break of 126 days is of little concern as she has gone well fresh in the past, whilst her trainer has been ticking along at more than double his average strike rate over the past fortnight.
1:50 European Breeders’ Fund Betfair ‘National Hunt’ Novices’ Handicap Hurdle Final
Premier Handicap, 2m4f
We switch codes in race two but look to have a similarly competitive handicap in store. A number of these have clashed already this season – Twinjets and Twin Power taking turns in beating each other, and Inneston having four of these behind when winning at this track. With Crambo and Cuthbert Dibble also arriving in form, zeroing in on one of the main contenders for win purposes looks like a difficult task. As such, we prefer a small each-way punt at a much bigger price.
The one to get the vote is the Sandy Thompson-trained War Soldier. We do need to forgive a below-par effort last time out, but at the prices, we are happy to do that, considering he reportedly wasn’t himself in the lead-up to the race. Prior to that, he had won back-to-back events at Newcastle and Haydock, whilst his close fourth to Ukantango on seasonal return also looks solid, with that horse since going on to twice finish placed in graded company. Thompson rattled in two big Saturday winners last weekend and may go close to striking again.
2:05 Spreadex Sports Lincoln Trial Handicap
Class 2, 1m½f
Viewers probably shouldn’t expect too many pointers towards the Lincoln, but this event nevertheless does tend to attract a number of handicappers who may be worth following throughout the season. Notre Belle Bete returns to defend his crown for Andrew Balding but faces a stiff task off an eight-pound higher mark. The hat-trick-seeking Unforgotten goes for Godolphin and rates another obvious contender, but we again just prefer an each-way punt.
Michael Appleby’s War In Heaven boasts an impeccable record at Wolverhampton, having won all four of his starts at the Dunstall Park venue. Those wins have all come at 1m1½, but he was a winner over six furlongs last season and isn’t short of speed. A rise of four pounds for his most recent win makes life tougher, but he didn’t look fully extended that day and may have enough in the locker to at least hit the frame.
2:25 Betfair Imperial Cup Handicap Hurdle
Premier Handicap, 2m
The big handicap of the day is as fiendishly competitive as you would expect. Peter Fahey took this with Surprise Package 12 months ago and sends two likely sorts over once again in the shape of Zoffany Bay and Man O Work. They make the shortlist, as does Harry Fry’s heavy ground specialist Metier, for all that a career-best will likely be required if he is to successfully lump 12st around here.
One of the key form races for this event is the Class 2 event held over this course and distance back in January. Hardy Du Seuil, Iceo, and Djelo finished first, second, and third that day, and there likely won’t be too much between them once again. Priced at 14/1, 9/1 and 14/1 respectively, it could be worth taking a chance that Djelo can turn that form around. The Venetia Williams runner gets a three-pound pull in the weights for a defeat by just over three lengths and would likely have finished considerably closer but for clattering the final fence.
2:40 Spreadex Sports Lady Wulfruna Stakes
This looks like a cracking edition of one of the feature events of the season at Wolverhampton, with a number of these having previously competed at a much higher level. Dhabab hasn’t quite delivered on his potential but was sent off as favourite for the Coventry Stakes in 2021 – a race won by Berkshire Shadow who also goes here. Angel Bleu, meanwhile, was last sighted finishing a solid fifth behind Baeed in the Sussex Stakes.
We suspect that classy trio may be the ones to concentrate on, with Angel Bleu just getting the nod. A Group 1 winner over this trip in France, he edged out Berkshire Shadow when the pair clashed in the 2021 Vintage Stakes and is taken to confirm that superiority two years on. Trainer Ralph Beckett is in flying form, with three of his four runners over the past fortnight hitting the target.
3:00 British Stallion Studs EBF Mares’ Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race
There’s not a whole lot of form to go on, as is generally the case in bumper contests, but Casa No Mento, Goodtimecrew, Dontyawantme, and Saint Bibiana do at least arrive on the back of a win. 12-length Hereford scorer Casa No Mento was probably the most visually impressive of that quartet, but the one we like best is the nicely bred, Goodtimecrew.
By Walk In The Park and out of a Rail Link mare, this one did very well to win at all at Wincanton, having forfeited lengths with a tardy start. Jockey Jonathan Burke always seemed confident of what was under the bonnet though, and once he popped the question in the straight, the five-year-old made up ground hand over first to be well on top at the line. Granted a cleaner break this time around, it would be no surprise to see Harry Fry’s mare follow up.
3:35 Betfair Daily Multiples Offer At Cheltenham Novices’ Handicap Chase
Premier Handicap, 2m4f
Just the six runners go to post in the finale, but this still looks like a tricky race to call. The Olly Murphy and Dan Skelton duo of No Risk Des Flos and Lac De Constance were both expensive purchases, but haven’t yet fully delivered on their potential. It wouldn’t be the biggest surprise to see either, or both, improve significantly here, but the most solid option is to simply side with the bang in form, Easy As That.
This Venetia Williams runner arrives seeking a hattrick and, significantly, has no concerns regarding the trip or the likely underfoot conditions – something which can’t be said of most of the rest of the field. Williams took this with Farinet in 2021 and looks to have the right type of horse to prevail once again.